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The Basics of Blockchain and Its Mission to Secure the Healthcare System



Your health should not have to wait in line to get checked up. How often do you find yourself going back and forth between your family physician, then to the laboratory for a blood test, and back to your doctor for another check up? Not to mention waiting in the dreary room even though you had your appointment booked days in advance. The amount of hours this process takes eventually leads people to postpone their health when in fact it should have been taken care of immediately.  

Well, that is where the savior concept of blockchain comes in, and it’s crucial for everyone to understand what is up-and-coming. Before any discussion can be held on the application of blockchain, we must have a clear definition of what blockchain is and how this concept applies to your healthcare needs.

An Easy Understanding of Blockchain for Beginners

In the past several months, recent news articles have been hyping up the legitimacy of applying blockchain methods to other industries, and one of biggest areas is the Healthcare Information Technology (IT) sector. The blockchain is the new foundation of the Internet for over a decade. It derived from the idea of bitcoin, which is a digital currency method that has close to $112 billion in value in the United States. Now, the tech community has expanded the value of economic transactions that are made virtually. Basically, blockchain has become the foundation of the new type of Internet, and it’s a revolution for incorruption and systemic efficiency.

The blockchain is simply another type of cryptocurrency such as the bitcoin. It is like a public ledger system where individuals can record their transactions; in regards to healthcare, these transactions are datasets such as blood tests, surgeries, implants, insurance information, and more. Each transaction is a “block” (hence the title of blockchain) and the blocks are added to other existing blocks until it creates a “chain”. Once each block is verified and approved, it is added to the public log and remains permanent.

If you still don’t know how it works, that’s okay. You actually don’t need to know the specific technicalities of how it works to use it, just like the Internet.

Basically, blockchain has become the foundation of the new type of Internet, and it’s a revolution for incorruption and systemic efficiency.”

Let’s put this concept from the perspective of a NBA basketball game. There are generally two teams, a scorekeeper, and a referee. All players must unanimously agree on the rules beforehand so that no one is cheating or making foul plays. Fans are watching the game and can help maintain the system to keep it in check.

Analogous to blockchain, each block is the score and all the fans and spectators help keep them in check of the rules. To reward those who help keep accurate scores, now fans can get rewarded for keeping the system updated and in check. Whoever is the first to correctly verify and approve the score (or “block”) will get rewarded for contributing to the public log system. Now, even though the fans are not the actual million dollar basketball players, they have the opportunity to gain benefits for their contribution to the overall score.

Same as the cryptocurrency, users who are not even involved in the transactions but also part of the blockchain node also keeps track of transactions as well and record their own blocks. The way logs across the system remain exact copies of each other as new blocks are updated and added is through solving a sort of computational math puzzle.

The Impact of Blockchain on Healthcare

The impact of blockchain could potentially have on the healthcare sector are numerous. It has a high potential to generate easier access and sharing of information for healthcare records. More time will be saved with the accessibility to track and ship for supply chains. Blockchains can also aid in the medical recording by providing an immutable medical record that cannot be changed, aiding in any legal cases in which an untampered medical record is needed. Patient records can be consolidated into a single record; lab results, treatments, disease registries, treatments, etc. can all be compounded together to give a holistic view of patient history so that providers can plan better strategies of healthcare. You will no longer find yourself wasting time back and forth between each lab and all your data will be in one safe place.

List of blockchain benefits:

  • Patient data sharing issues can also be addressed across state borders, where regulations regarding patient privacy and consent vary from state to state.
  • Permission checking will keep patient data secure while granting easy information access for other permitted parties to view. It can also assist in settling payments between insurance providers, hospitals, and patients.
  • Patients can be also incentivized and rewarded from following a care plan, following appointments, and staying healthy through the blockchain system.
  • Patients may also be rewarded for sharing their data with clinical trials and research.

The Reality of Blockchain

Blockchain definitely has its ups, but those come with its downsides. It is not designed for the use of analytics. Blockchains has issues with transactional performance; for example, bitcoin runs at around 7 transactions per second. To put in an easier context to understand, 7 transactions is almost nothing compared to something like VISA, where around 24,000 transactions are recorded per second! It has problems with large data storage over time and scalability issues. Because the logs have to be recorded, it can lead to large numbers of information that gets repossessed, leading to high inefficiency costs. Greater research is still ongoing to optimize data transfer within blockchain.

If the problems currently facing blockchain can be resolved, then we may be able to enjoy faster and more efficient healthcare in the future. There wouldn’t be a need to wait in line at the doctor’s office while the office workers call various providers and to see if you are qualified to receive care. Doctors would be able to streamline your personal healthcare plans by having access to your past healthcare plans and plan accordingly to how different methods have worked and what new steps could be taken. You can be more involved in your own health by having up-to-date biometrics data, monitoring your own progress, and keeping up a routine of visiting your healthcare provider on a regular basis.

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Digital Health

AR and VR Applications in Healthcare



Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been growing to encompass a variety of different fields, from business and gaming to healthcare applications. Research into healthcare applications for AR and VR technologies have swelled up in the past decade with the advances in computing power. Currently, AR and VR healthcare applications have been focused on educating or simulating different treatments for surgeons and clinicians. There are three key healthcare delivery stages as defined by the world health organization: Primary care; Secondary care; Tertiary care interventions. According to a research study done in the UK analyzing all the ongoing research in AR and VR in healthcare application, there is a broad focus in hospital and clinical settings. Here is a list of interesting technologies in development or are currently rolled out in hospitals and clinics.

Image by zedinteractive from Pixabay
  • There have been developments in dental care using a 3D iOS scanning system to create dental abutments and to potentially plan for surgical interventions.
  • Simulated needle placements for training purposes, with haptic feedback systems to simulate real tissue.
  • Simulations of surgery procedures for greater patient engagement with practitioners on the outcomes of surgeries.
  • Aiding surgery with additional information about the patient anatomy by reconstructing patient anatomy using spatial information collected through using image-based tracking.
  • Training nature of tools developed need full surgical theater settings and require a hospital setting for deployment.
  • Simulations of health conditions are being developed so that interventions can be planned for a wide variety of scenarios.
  • Human body measurements captured through computer-aided design (CAD) to process 3D measurements and display modeled body shapes.
  • Handheld technology through a hand-held surface scanner can be used to present spatial information in a mobile format.
  • There is a system being developed to measure the size of wounds using 3D sensing technology to improve the reliability and accuracy of surface measurements continuously.
  • A hand-motion based VR game used as a therapy treatment to reduce hand muscle problems associated with keyboard overuse.
  • AR and VR can be combined to add greater depth to technologies. Research for a system has been made to use AR to project a virtual brain onto the patient’s head. On the same system, VR will be used to allow the patient to have a hands-on experience with the projection to see the solutions implemented.
  • The Xbox Kinect has been used for developing AR anatomy education.
  • A wheelchair navigation system using smartphones to scan specific locations in order to assist the user in moving around their environment.

In short, AR is used to visual pre- or intraoperative images onto the patient’s anatomy to aid in decision making moving forward. VR has been used for educational purposes and interacting with anatomy. The future of healthcare will be greatly enhanced for patients and healthcare providers alike.



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Digital Health

5 Reasons Virtual Reality is Changing the Game of Medicine



Virtual reality can truly transport you to a different world. As many people have reported the first time they try out a headset, the experience is incredibly lifelike. Virtual reality today is producing not only more advanced video games that evoke real emotion in people but a solution for the healthcare industry too. Virtual reality is enhancing the patient experience to the process of rehabilitation. Many VR developers including Samsung have stepped up to produce technology over the last decade that is built with patient experience in mind.

VR applications in the medical field are almost limitless at this point. VR technology is working to deliver an immediate benefit in these five sectors of health care:

  1. Training: VR programs have been introduced for clinical skills training support. Medical students can complete surgical skill training in the form of simulations. Doctors can complete full procedures in VR without risking patient health and feel more confident in their abilities going into a real procedure having done the simulation.
  2. Prevention: VR experiences for promoting wellness, managing stress and treating addictive behavior are all occurring today. Specific programs for helping people to manage stress and coping their addiction are working to improve the patient in stressful situations.
  3. Adherence during training: improving patient experience through various VR training and game-like features is helping medical facilities to engage with patients during the treatment process. This can lead to better injury recovery and more.
  4. Pain management: VR distraction experiences are now being used as an alternative to painkillers. These solutions can reduce the overall dosage of painkillers that are required during specific procedures, and they can even eliminate the use of painkillers in situations such as dressing burns and more.
  5. Telemedicine: standalone VR systems and cell phone-based systems can be of use for providing health care access remotely. Connecting with physicians through VR could enhance chronic disease management and help physicians support improved home diagnosis and recovery.

VR applications in healthcare can have almost limitless possibilities such as overcoming phobias in mental health conditions, fulfilling the dying wishes of the palliative care patient, easing stress during procedures like vaccinations and continuing to provide support as an alternative to painkillers.

Many manufacturers are working on dropping the price of their headset substantially. For medical use, there are headsets now available for less than $100 that can be used with most smartphone devices. As a long-term strategy, VR is still an industry that is mostly consumer driven, but as more developers step forward and continue producing products for medical use, we may see more hospitals continuing to implement this technology for their patients.

As more people have access to this technology at home, it could also improve the availability of applications that they could access on their smartphones or VR devices. Patients both in medical facilities and at home will be able to take advantage of the therapeutic effects of this fantastic technology as long as developers keep scaling up their efforts.


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Digital Health

The Connection between Smartphones and Atrial Fibrillation Detection



After seven years of extensive research and development, a new app created at Turku University, Finland recently revealed that it could detect atrial fibrillation without the use of additional equipment. The phone application has the possibility to save lives across the globe because timely diagnosis of the atrial fibrillation is vital in stroke prevention. This joint research of Turku University & the Turku Heart Centre has studied 300 patients having heart-related issues; half of them were having atrial fibrillation. And, the researchers also identified the patients having atrial fibrillation from another group with the smart mobile. The phone app, which was designed at Turku University, had detected which group members had  atrial fibrillation, that too with a 96% accuracy with few false positives.

Members of the study included those who had ventricular extrasystole, heart failure, and coronary disease. With a wide spectrum of heart conditions, the research at the University of Turku was conducted as blind research, meaning that the hospital sent measurements of data for conducting analysis even without any additional information of specific patient conditions. The complete analyses were then sent back to the University of Turku hospital to further examine the reliability.

Is Atrial Fibrillation always Detected at the Doctor’s Office?

No, atrial fibrillation is not always detected at the doctors office, even if it is in its intermittent stages. Proper detection of atrial fibrillation has been a pertinent challenge in medicine due to its affordability constraints.

During the seven year period, the researchers decided to check whether it’s possible for them to detect the atrial fibrillation from micro movements in the chest along with accelerometers.  In the year 2017 when the research was completed, they ascertained that it is quite possible. This means that everyone who owns smartphones has the potential to detect atrial fibrillation, as most smartphones have an accelerometer.

Therefore, this mobile application not only can direct patients straight to doctors without any further delay but can also lead to significant economic savings.

When will we see the App in the Market?

The researchers aim to make this app available for everyone relatively soon and believe that the app can spread to the world market. The commercialization of this app is quickly advancing. Currently, the researchers have applied for patent protection regarding all the new techniques which are at the initial stages of the research.


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